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PREVIEW: GAC at Apalachee

GAC #54 Andrew Bartolomei

GAC #54 Andrew Bartolomei

GAC SPARTANS (6-AA)

Coach: Tim Hardy

Record: 2-0

Last week: Beat Savannah 31-8

APALACHEE WILDCATS(8-AAAAA)

Coach: Shane Davis

Record: 1-0

Last week: Beat Lanier 21-11

Having already beaten teams from Class AAA and AAAA in their first two games, the Spartans, ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press’ most recent Class AA state poll, take another step up in classification Friday by traveling to Apalachee.

And the Wildcats, whom GAC hasn’t played in nine years, pose the biggest challenge yet for GAC.

“(GAC) played Apalachee back when the school was first opening,” Spartans coach Tim Hardy said. “But this is a different deal now. … It’s time for us to step up to a different level of competition.

“(Apalachee is) a good football team. They know what they do, and they execute it very well. … We’ve definitely got our hands full.”

Apalachee’s formula for success is a simple one — run the football and control the clock on offense and play disciplined, physical football on defense.

And the Wildcats did just that in last week’s win over Lanier, amassing 355 yards on the ground, with Eric Tanner and Stanley Williams each breaking 100 yards, and overcoming injuries and a humid night to hold the Longhorns to just 11 points.

But the respect Hardy has for Apalachee is mutual, and coach Shane Davis knows his defense will not only have to deal with an increasingly confident Spartans quarterback Rafe Chapple, but also try to win the battle of the line of scrimmage, where senior Andrew Bartolomei gives GAC a strong veteran presence.

“We showed a lot of heart to win the (Lanier) game,” Davis said. “But not turning the ball over is going to be a huge key for us (tonight). You’re not going to win many games turning the ball over three times like we did (last week), especially with two coming in the red zone.

“GAC’s been around and all of our kids know who they are. Our coaches also know who they are. This is another step for us.”

Last meeting: GAC won 49-14 in 2003

Directions to Apalachee High School: From Ga. Highway 316 east, turn right on Patrick Mill Rd. Take first left. Go to 4-way stop and turn left onto Haymon Morris Rd.; school is on the right.